Sunday, March 23, 2014

On Feeling Invalidated

I've been noticing in the last couple of weeks that there seems to be a culture of "you have no idea what you're doing until you're in it" among parents. No one's said anything directly to me to cause me to think this, so I may be reading into things, but if you look around in the media, books, and sometimes what people say, it's there. It bothers me.

It makes me feel like my opinions about my child and how I want to raise him don't matter until I've already done it. Like having a game plan is a bad thing.

I became a mom when I had Penny. She may have only been with us for a few days, and she may have spent most of her life in the care of nurses, but she made me a mom. This boy growing in my belly is my second child. I may not have any children at home, but I've been a mom since November of 2012.

I see lots of complaints about how people without kids have no idea how much their life will change when they become parents. Their lives are not their own, their time is not their own, and so on. I know this. I've been a full-time nanny since August of 2012. I'm quite familiar with the struggle of keeping a house clean, of having fair and effective discipline, of transitions, of safety, of spending all day on what THEY want and THEY need, of not being able to hardly use the bathroom without interruption, of feeding the gospel into them on a daily basis, and so on. In those situations, I feel like I've had enough experience to merit an opinion on those things.

I know I don't know everything. I don't pretend I do. I'm a nanny 9-5 on weekdays, so I don't know what it's like to have a bedtime routine. I don't know what it's like when your child wakes up sick in the middle of the night. I don't know how it changes and challenges a marriage. I don't know what the sleeplessness of midnight feedings is like. I don't know the financial burdens. I don't know what it's like to coordinate holidays between in-laws. There are so many things I don't know that I can't count them, or anticipate them all. I know that. So I don't comment on them, except to repeat what experienced mothers have told me. I do listen where wisdom is to be gained.

Having a plan isn't a bad thing. Having experience isn't a bad thing. When you start a new job, it's expected that you'll have experience as well as learn on the job. It feels like parenting is one of the few areas where previous experience can be totally negated. "Oh, but it won't be the same when it's your own kids. Just you wait." Maybe. I do expect it will be emotionally very different when I'm taking care of my own children. But that doesn't mean that I won't be drawing from my past experience of taking care of this other family of boys I love.

Maybe I am being naive. Maybe everything I know about taking care of children is wrong. Maybe my entire outlook on child-rearing and family life will change the moment that I change my baby's first diaper. But I doubt it. Yes, things will be different, and yes, I expect things to evolve as we go along. But that doesn't mean my opinions and experience now don't count.

***

Sorry for the rant. On the upside, I have my next ultrasound this Wednesday. Here are some stats:
He is now seventeen weeks along.
He is approximately the size of a turnip (about 5 inches long, crown to rump).
Mommy has been starting to go to the gym again. We want to gain healthy pounds!
Mommy and Daddy haven't decided on a name yet.
About twenty-three weeks to go, about 120 days down.

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